How to Put More Technology into Schools

Susie Ochs's picture

How to Put More Technology into Schools


I got a letter a little while ago that warmed the cockles of my cold, black heart and instantly gave me the brilliant idea for this, my triumphant return to writing blog posts for This letter was actually a bunch of letters, written by some cutiepants kids at Miraloma Elementary in San Francisco, to thank me for their classroom's new iPods.


Wait a second, I don't have kids. I've never set foot in Miraloma Elementary, and I don't know a single kid who goes there, or grown-up who works there. So why am I buying them iPods? Because is the best site in the world (hmmm, maybe second-best), and once you've gotten your own pack of enthusiastic thank-yous hand-printed with No. 2 pencils and decorated with drawings and eraser smudges, you'll be as hooked on it as I am.


Here's how it works: A teacher submits a proposal. (Know a teacher who's so into education that she spends her own money on classroom supplies? Pass this site along immediately.) DonorsChoose vets the proposal and adds it to their site. Then angels like you come along, click Choose A Project, and then browse through the proposals to pick one to fund.


Start here. Duh.


You can search by region and city if you're into helping local kids, or by subject, how old the students are, or even by how much funding the proposals need. I focused my search on technology since that's what's important to me, but you can also find art, science, math, reading, language, physical education...all kinds of projects. The hardest part is realizing you can't afford to fund them all.


After you pick a project and click Give Now, you can fund part or all of its cost by making a donation, and after you pay you'll also get the opportunity to email the project link to your friends in case they want to chip in too. (My latest donation was to get headset microphones for a middle school in San Francisco, and it still needs $123 to reach completion. Hint, hint.)


If the project is fully funded within five months of being posted, the teacher gets the requested supplies, as well as a disposable camera to capture the joy of learning. The kids also write thank-you notes, and anyone who donated $100 or more gets a couple pictures and some letters in the mail from DonorsChoose. (No matter how much you give, you'll get an email thank-you and receipt, since the donation is tax deductible.) The teacher gets a new way for his kids to learn; the kids get a great educational experience and a happy teacher; and you get fountains of joy, cute letters in the mail, and a nice write-off to boot. How much does that rule? (Answer: A lot.)


What happens if the project doesn't get full funding within that five-month time limit? Well, the teacher can always re-submit it, and your donation can go to administrative costs for DonorsChoose, to another project of the foundation's choosing, or be returned to you as "account credits" you can spend funding another project you pick out yourself. (You pick one of these options when you make your initial donation.) You can even give DonorsChoose gift certificates to your friends, an outstanding way to raise awareness about this wonderful site.


Got a blog or an online community of some kind? You can start a challenge on DonorsChoose and get your readers, guild members, or other Internet buddies working together to fund projects. (I was actually introduced to the site through one of these challenges, joining the readers of Tomato Nation in raising over $100,000 in a month. Yeah, we beat Colbert Nation. What?) There's even a leaderboard so you can measure your group's generosity against others' -- because if anything's better than helping kids, it's being able to quantify exactly how awesome you are.


What do you think -- great stuff, huh? With that, I'll leave you with a few technology-related projects that are expiring soon and still need funding. Maybe some kind souls out there in MacLifeLand can come to the rescue. After all, it's for the children. (Need inspiration or warm-fuzzy feelings? Click forward to see the mega-adorable thank-yous I got for getting iPods for the Podcasting Across the Curriculum project. You're welcome, shorties!)


Project: Two iMacs for an elementary school in San Francisco.

Needs: $4,244

Days Remaining: 44


Project: Scientific calculators for middle schoolers in Indiana.

Needs: $390

Days Remaining: JUST ONE!!!


Project: A digital camera for a middle school in North Carolina.

Needs: $475

Days Remaining: JUST ONE!!!




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Emily Wood

I wanted to thank you personally for funding my iPod project! It is a humble start (just 3 iPods to begin with) but I hope others will read this and continue to give as you have so I can have a whole class set! Reading your article has inspired me to create another Donors Choose proposal! Although if anyone wants to donate to my project specifically, I have moved to West Portal School in SF. I would also be happy to take all those extra iPods you have lying around your apartment off your hands:) Just kidding, well, sort of.
Thanks a bunch!
Emily Wood



Hey Susie, remember my "Education Tour" earlier this year? Miraloma was at the top of our list. But SFUSD assigned us to a different school. I'll have to remember this program and mention it to the PTA when the school year starts. Great article.

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